The hedgehog people of Ipswich!

During Hedgehog Awareness week we were celebrating the amazing people that are helping raise awareness for hedgehogs, promote action, and better understand hedgehogs across Ipswich!

These are just some of the individuals and groups doing brilliant stuff for hedgehogs. Included here are also lots of links for you to find out more about getting involved, whether it is yourself as an individual, a family, a school, community group or a business, everyone can do their bit to help hedgehogs.

Hedgehog Champions!

Here are Emma and Daisy, two of our Hedgehog Champions working to enthuse their neighbours and peers to have hedgehog-friendly gardens.  Emma is a trustee and volunteer for Poppy’s Crêche hedgehog rescue, shares stories and videos of hedgehogs across social media regularly and is spreading the word for hedgehog-friendly gardening to her neighbours, friends and colleagues. Daisy is a wildlife ambassador at Sidegate Primary School, runs hedgehog stalls and has made some brilliant hedgehog creations to help raise awareness and funds, including key rings, window stickers and a leaflet that was distributed to all houses within her school catchment as part of a school competition. Daisy recently made this awesome video to help people make hedgehog feeding stations in their gardens.

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Hedgehog Champions aim to make their whole street hedgehog friendly, with linked gardens and nesting and feeding habitat through the Hedgehog Street approach. There are lots of ways to promote action and champion hedgehogs on your street, from chatting to neighbours, distributing our leaflets, writing letters, setting up community facebook pages, running a neighbourhood hedgehog survey or organising street events! We are here to help and have champion packs to get you started. For more information and to register to become a champion in Ipswich, head to our website here.

Hedgehog volunteers!

Ipswich would definitely not be as hedgehog friendly without the very generous help of our interns and volunteers. From helping us run community events, hedgehog surveys, visit gardens or run research projects, our dedicated hedgehog volunteers have contributed over 600 hours of their time to the project in the past year and a half. Amazing! One of our hedgehog interns Chloe (left photo) is pictured below in our study area after a day of installing cameras in gardens. Steph (right photo) is one of our night torchlight volunteers and has walked many  miles in the dark in search of hedgehogs. On the night this photo was taken we found two lovely hedgehogs, both in good health! If you would like to volunteer with our hedgehog project then please head to our website here, to find out more.

 

Community Groups

Community groups across Ipswich have been very keen to learn more about hedgehogs and how to help them. “We love hedgehogs!” shouts the SWT Ipswich Local Group! It is through the action of whole communities creating Hedgehog Highways and garden habitat that we will be able to improve large areas for hedgehog populations.

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Ipswich is lucky to have lots of organisations working towards similar goals for wildlife (See Wild Ipswich). Pictured below are Greenways & Ipswich Wildlife Group next to some of their hedgehog homes made as part of their wildlife homes events across town. Participants help make their own home, and each hedgehog house goes home with a fact sheet to help spread the word!

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Schools

Schools across town have been learning about hedgehogs and how to help them in their school grounds and in their own gardens, and some have been surveying their school grounds for signs of hedgehog. Ipswich School have been ensuring their grounds are hedgehog friendly with the creation of lots of natural and home-made hedgehog nest sites, including this very stylish hedgehog house at The Lodge Day Nursery.

 

Ipswich Borough Council 

Ipswich Borough Council have taken the pledge to check before they strim – with their machinery now displaying warning stickers from British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Park team members have recently attended a hedgehog ecology workshop to think about how their green spaces are managed for wildlife and to discuss what else could be done!

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Ipswich Football Club

Ipswich Town football club are helping spread awareness with machinery stickers too, and are promoting this to all of their community supporters via their social media accounts. Hopefully this will help people to remember to check for hedgehogs before cutting those areas of long grass that are perfect for nesting. You can request hedgehog machinery stickers from British Hedgehog Preservation Society, here.

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Hedgehog Rescue

Here are Paula, Anne and Lis photographed at Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue hogspital! Hedgehog rescuers work tirelessly to help sick and injured hogs and these three lovely ladies are doing an amazing job. If you’d like to donate, or find out more about Suffolk Prickles or other local rescues like Poppys creche, click the links to head to their websites.

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These are just some of the groups and individuals that are helping hedgehogs across Ipswich, and what a great job they are dong. Keep up the good work folks!

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It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week!

Hedgehog Awareness Week is a campaign running between Sunday 6th May and Saturday 12th May, ran by British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Hedgehog Awareness Week prize give-away!

This year we’re running a prize give-away for everyone logging their hedgehog-friendly gardens on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust hedgehog online map. Record your hedgehog highways (ground level fence holes – 13x13cm), wild areas (log piles, wildflower patches) and hedgehog nest boxes here. This will help us track how hedgehog friendly Ipswich is becoming and identify areas for future action!

All gardens logged from now until May 18th will have a chance of winning a beautifully woven willow hedgehog created and very kindly donated by Jo Hammond, as well as a newly published book ‘The Last Hedgehog’ written by Pam Ayres. Jo Hammond uses a range of English willow varieties to create beautiful willow structures and traditional baskets. She runs workshops for attendees to forage for their own branches and learn techniques to create their own willow masterpieces. More information about her work and courses can be found on her website here. ‘The Last Hedgehog’ is a beautifully illustrated book aimed at adults, addressing all of the issues hedgehogs are facing in a hard-hitting and quite emotional way! Click the ‘enter me into the prize draw’ box when logging your garden to be in with a chance of winning!

Woven hedgehog

Pam Ayres

Not sure how to make your garden hedgehog friendly?

Find lots of tips on our website here. If you do just one thing this week, make a hole in your fence! There are lots of ways you can do this; dig under your fence, cut into your fence, heighten the gap under your gate or if you’re worried about pets escaping, make a tunnel out of plastic piping or a cinder block. The more gardens that are connected in this way, the better.

Here’s a Hedgehog Highway hole in action!

Volunteer and become a hedgehog champion

Want to volunteer on our Ipswich hedgehog project or become a hedgehog champion to make your whole street hedgehog friendly? More information here.

Hedgehog machinery stickers

Hedgehogs often nest in areas of long grass and bramble making them vulnerable to garden machinery and habitat clearance. Areas should always be checked first, and a high cut, low cut method enables a check for hedgehogs in between cuts.  Does your organisation or company use grounds machinery? Are you a tool hire company that wants to be hedgehog friendly? You can request hedgehog-awareness machinery stickers from British Hedgehog Preservatoin Society, and be added to their roll of honour! Ipswich companies can also request a free hedgehog ecology workshop by emailing me on hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Come to a hedgehog event!

Learn more about hedgehogs on a night-time ‘torchlight tour’ in search of these enigmatic creatures. You can sign up for this workshop, and other similar events, on the What’s On section of our website here. 

 

Banner image: CC BY 2.0 Kalle Gustafsson

 

A wild few weeks: the big hedgehog hunt

It’s been a pretty wild few weeks: out till 4am, police call outs and raunchy behaviour witnessed on the streets of Ipswich.

I am of course talking about our night hedgehog surveys, walking set transects until around 4am, donned in high vis and torches. We got off to a slow start, with only one hedgehog found in several nights, and who can blame them, it has been a very strange (and late) Spring this year. We did however find LOTS of toads in amplexus (ie. the raunchy behaviour), many smooth newts and the odd mouse, and we can’t really blame residents for calling the police on us – we did look a little odd patroling the streets and searching bushes at 3am in the morning (I hasten to add the police were very friendly and happy to chat to us about hedgehogs before we went on our way!)

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After a slow start we did, thankfully, start to catch more hedgehogs. After undergoing a health check, individuals were given a unique mark and if certain criteria met, a satellite tracker attached so we could see exactly where these hogs were travelling (all of these activities were done under license).

My favourite part of the transect was the allotment, because although it did feel really quite creepy (with some horror film worthy scarecrows), there was lots of great habitat to explore, and it was really exciting when we finally found a hedgehog on one of the plots. When tiredness sets in, EVERYTHING starts to look like a hedgehog. A couple of cabbages and an old swede were incredibly deceptive in these early hours, and we very nearly missed the hedgehog, at first assuming it couldn’t possibly be anything other than a vegetable.

Whilst a pair of drunken chaps on the bank holiday weekend wanting to join in on the ‘hunt for harry the hedgehog’ were probably trying to help, the people I really want to thank are all of our amazing volunteers that walked many many miles during the early hours of the night, and who without, the survey wouldn’t have been possible! [I’ve just worked out that I walked over 200km during this night period, so there really was a lot of walking!)

Thanks everyone and stay tuned to hear more about the next stages of the study!

 

 

 

The hedgehogs in my garden

Last week I had the very exciting realisation that my hedgehog house was occupied by a prickly visitor! This, coupled with the scattering of hedgehog poo across the lawn jolted me into action, and naturally, I quickly went to the garden centre to get more dishes for hedgehog food.

After setting up the night camera in several locations around the garden, I’ve been beginning to build up a picture of how it is being used by hedgehogs, and the results are VERY exciting. Not only do I have one hedgehog, but in fact at least TWO hedgehogs, as caught on camera exiting the house on night 2..

After recording the hedgehog house I decided to move the camera to the main entry and exit point to the garden. Here I found a sneaky cat coming in to drink from the water bowl, but also a hedgehog (or hedgehogs) entering and exiting 3 times throughout the night.

Next I put the camera on one of the food bowls placed near my patio doors (in a bid to bring them closer so I can watch them from the window!!) The bowl was visited 12 times in one night! I imagine the colder night temperatures might be keeping them from roaming further afield.

It’s been great fun working out how hedgehogs are using my garden, and witnessing the behaviours of these elusive animals. Remember if you live in Ipswich you can borrow our trail cameras for free! They’re really easy to use, and I can even help you set it up. They are available to be borrowed from June – email now (hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org) to receive a booking form and reserve your spot!

Elastic bands littering the streets of our study area

Whilst myself, Chloe and Sarah have been walking the streets of our study area,  we have noticed an issue with elastic bands. They appear to be everywhere! In just the past few weeks my pocket has been getting progressively wetter and muddier as we have been plucking these from the street, away from all those hedgehogs emerging from hibernation, and to which they pose a bit of a hazard!

Today I decided it was time to empty the pocket and count how many we had found so far…a grand total of 81. This obviously isn’t a new issue – there have been several petitions in the past few years with regards to littered elastic bands, the Royal Mail, and the negative impact these bits of litter can have on wildlife, including hedgehogs!

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Rubber bands can injure or even kill hedgehogs, and although I’m sure no-one drops them on purpose, it is something we should all be a bit more careful about. The Royal Mail do have guidance it provides to it’s workers on the matter, which you can see here, but a chat to the local sorting office might be useful too. This is an example of a hedgehog hazard that can be easily reduced by the actions of the individual, much like the creation of hedgehog fence holes and wild areas in our gardens. Collectively, we can make a positive impact!

Young leader hedgehog championing!

I love hearing stories about the work of our hedgehog champions across Ipswich. They are doing a brilliant job in raising awareness and promoting action across the town.

Rowan is a 15 year old hedgehog champion, currently studying for his GCSEs. In amongst his revision he has been preparing for a hedgehog themed session with his scouts group, as a young leader.

He gave a talk about hedgehog ecology, the threats they face and the simple actions that can be taken in gardens and neighbourhoods, mixed in with some fab activities to get the group thinking about hedgehogs. The scouts were tested with a true/false quiz and an activity to get the blood pumping: exercise up and down the hall to guess how far they thought a hedgehog would travel in a night. I think lots of people are still surprised to hear a hedgehog can travel ~2km in just one night!

Hedgehog scouts

Rowan is now chatting with the scout assistant district commissioner about running further activities later in the year. Excellent work championing hedgehogs Rowan!

If you would like to champion hedgehogs for your Ipswich street, head to our website here, for more information and to sign up! If you aren’t based in Ipswich, but are keen to help, remember you can sign up to the national campaign Hedgehog Street. Head to their website here, for more information!

A hello to our new hedgehog interns

Now that we have begun field work for the Spring 2018 season, we have two lovely new interns that have joined Team Hedgehog here in Ipswich. It’s brilliant to have the enthusiasm of both Sarah and Chloë on board, helping us better understand the ecology of hedgehogs, and how to measure their populations in an urban setting. I have asked both to write a little introduction about themselves, so I will digitally hand over to them…

Hedgehog interns sarah and chloe!Left: Sarah, Right: Chloë

“My name is Sarah Kilshaw and I am a wildlife conservation and the environment graduate (I still call myself a graduate even though I left Writtle University College in May 2017) and I grew up in Ipswich. I am passionate about wildlife and especially the wildlife of urban areas! One of my earliest memories of wildlife is of seeing a family of hedgehogs in my garden and this is one of the many memories of wildlife that have been scattered through my childhood that sparked my love of wildlife as an adult. I was eager to be involved in the hedgehog work in Ipswich because I want to know more about this elusive species that seemed to be common in my childhood yet so infrequent the older I get.

I have volunteered with a number of conservation groups in Ipswich including Suffolk Wildlife Trust and this has led me to my current job as a Casual Wildlife and Education Ranger with Ipswich Borough Council. As part of my job I do a lot of practical habitat management but I really wanted to get stuck into some survey work and I am so excited to be involved with the hedgehog project in Ipswich and learn so much more about the habits of these sweet, snuffly little animals that sneak into our gardens and our hearts! I confess that I am by far an expert with hedgehogs but I am so keen to learn and explore more about these cute little animals and hope that the work I do in the following months will make a difference to the future hedgehogs of Ipswich.”

Chloe:

“I remember the first time I saw a hedgehog: it was in my garden when I was about eight years old. Thinking back, it was probably the closest I had ever been to a wild animal at the time, and I was struck by its confidence it was probably after the cat’s food! Hedgehogs are a species that hold a special place in the heart of the British public, and I am excited to have the opportunity to take part in conservation research that could help prevent the decline of such a fascinating species.

After graduating in Bioveterinary Science from the University of Liverpool last year, I am so grateful to have the chance to work with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust on such an interesting project, developing skills that will definitely help me in my future career in conservation research!”

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We are now a few weeks into the Nottingham Trent study and have battled the beast from the east, the mini-beast from the east and some numb fingers and toes. With permission to place a wildlife camera needed for 120 randomly-selected points, we’ve knocked on over 100 doors, walked 126km, met lots of lovely (and interesting!) people, and have nearly reached our target! Stay tuned to hear how we get on in the coming months.

 

Hedgehog habits day 1 – the beast from the east!

Yesterday was the first day of our hedgehog habit activities this spring – and the snow made it feel rather intrepid (and a bit weird, when thinking about hedgehog surveys!)

This Spring we are carrying out field work in a study area in North East Ipswich as part of a wider project across the UK run by Nottingham Trent University. This is the second year we have taken part in the research, which is looking to validate a method for estimating hedgehog population density, with Ipswich being one of several of the urban sites selected across the country. See more information about this collaborative project here. Whilst we know hedgehog numbers are certainly declining, estimating hedgehog densities across different habitats is difficult and this method will help contribute to national efforts to better understand hedgehogs and how to monitor their populations.

Day 1 of field work = delivery of the leaflets to get garden owners on board.  We need to persuade 120 randomly selected garden owners to have a wildlife camera installed in their garden. The current weather (dubbed the Beast from the East in local media) was going against my need to get to the study area, and the dodgy roads meant I had to grab my thermals and boot up to head out in the snow to walk to the study site.

 

It was great to get to the study area and start to imagine where we might be finding hedgehogs later in the spring  – I’ll be in this part of town most days now for the next three months, so will soon know these streets very well! There weren’t very many cars on the road but the streets were busy with children having snow fights and being pulled along in sleds. I LOVE snow and it felt very festive, especially coming across whitened trees full of mistletoe, and what I believe were several lovely fieldfare!

Day 1 complete = 10 miles walked = 55 leaflets distributed. I think I’m going to quite easily hit any daily steps targets this Spring… stay tuned to hear how we get on in the coming months!

 

A tour of Holywells Park!

Today I was lucky enough to help promote the work of Suffolk Wildlife Trust and our Ipswich hedgehog project, to the mayor and sheriff of Norwich (David Fullman & David Walker), and mayor of Ipswich (Sarah Barber), who were visiting Holywells Park on a grand tour of the town.

The tour was led by Richard Sharp, Community Engagement & Volunteer Officer at Ipswich Borough Council, who heads up the Heritage Lottery Funded project at Holywells Park. Here are the group alongside the amazing hedgehog sculpture, made by the Holywells Creative Art Collective (and recently named ‘Stickle’ as part of a competition launched late last year).

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It was brilliant to learn more about the history and heritage of Holywells Park, and promote the contribution of the trust in engaging park visitors with wildlife too. Suffolk Wildlife Trust regularly collaborate with the council, friends of group, Ipswich Wildlife Group, Buglife and Greenways in running wildlife events in the park. Our Closer to Nature work, ran by our Ipswich education ranger, Lucy, has also been amazing in inspiring a new generation of young naturalists, through her young wardens group, wildlife watch and skills courses at Holywells (and across Ipswich!). Our hedgehog work has encouraged residents near the park to get involved with hedgehog conservation action, with our hedgehog footprint tunnel surveys, night walks and events promoting the use of our night cameras in Ipswich gardens and the implementation of holes in garden fences!

On a whistle stop tour of the park highlighting the heritage, community, health and wildlife benefits of the Heritage Lottery funded project at the park, we stopped off in one of the wildlife areas to highlight some great habitat (including some excellent bramble, prime for hibernating hedgehogs!) and some of the contributions made by volunteers. Just yesterday Lucy and I had worked with local families to begin building a giant bug hotel (which of course had a lovely hedgehog nesting section beneath) as part of our Wildlife Homes event with Friends of Holywells, Ipswich wildlife group and Greenways.

Keep an eye on our facebook page (Suffolk Wildlife Trust in Ipswich) or What’s On, for upcoming wildlife activities in green spaces across Ipswich!